The Silvana is an Israeli/Worldly themed Cafe-Bar located on 116th St in Harlem by Frederick Douglass Blvd. It is run by Sivan and Addel Ouedraogo. Sivan provided the information for this review during a gracious interview.
Innovation was much on Sivan’s mind when the venue concept was created six months ago for the grand opening. The premises contain two aspects on street level and basement floors. As the area was sorely lacking in cultural gift shops, an important aspect was to showcase items for sale both by local craftspeople, as well as items that the owners picked up on worldly travels. African influences are prominent, but the gift shop stock does span the world. In this spirit, the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang will be a useful metaphor.
The upper level is a combination of restaurant-cafe and gift shop. While the dinner items can certainly be taken below to the bar, their central place is at the cafe. The cuisine is focused on a Kosher-Style Israeli-Mediterranean selection of vegetarian dips and side dishes. The signature dish is a choice of six of eight possible mini salads including Israeli Salad, Babaganoush, Hummus, Tabouleh, Labane (a creamy-whipped cheese), Tzatziki (a yogurt dish), and Fattoush (a spicy Tomato dish.) There are two meat dishes: Lamb and Chicken Shawarma, which cut the meat into small strips and cook them. Because of this, hours of operation and a few other factors, practitioners of strict Orthodox Kosher observances should decide what leniency their practice allows when making their decision to attend.
The upstairs cafe has a capacity of about twenty-five people, because the rest of the area is dedicated to a world-culture themed gift shop. To use the metaphor from earlier, the upper level is quite Yin, soft and subtle. You can buy items from both local craftspeople and collectibles from many other countries. The cozy setting lends itself to an hour’s study for class, chatting with friends, getting Mom a birthday present, and more.
Downstairs is the live music bar, where the Yang, vibrant, in-the-moment aspect reigns. Bar prices seem to be city standard, and they can fill the obscure but authentic New York cocktail of Whiskey & Milk once mentioned in a short story by the writer O. Henry a century ago. Several live bands perform sets each night, so if a certain one isn’t to your taste, wait an hour and you can try out the next act.
A few finesses:
“Business Nook” — A small round red table at the left wall is placed just above a multi outlet electrical socket. So you can charge your laptop, your phone, and your iPad for a half hour before work.
“Starving Student Special” — You can get some eggs and pita bread for under $5!
Location: Within a couple of blocks, it can be reached by the B, C, 2,3,A, D lines of the subway, as well as the M7 and M116 Buses.